Recycling is vital for many reasons. It helps reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills, conserves natural resources, and cuts down on pollution. The good news is that most materials are recyclable materials. The bad news is that not all materials can be recycled.
So, what can be recycled and what can’t be recycled? This blog post will explore the answers to such vital questions regarding recycling. You will also get to know what makes a material recyclable. So if you’re curious about recycling, read on!
What Makes any Material Recyclable?
Before going through a list of what materials can or can’t be recycled, let’s understand what makes a material recyclable. When people think about recycling, they often think about aluminum cans or plastic bottles. But what makes these materials recyclable?
For a material to be recycled, three things must be present: technology to recycle the material, a buyer for the recycled material, and economics that makes sense for the processor.
Technology must exist to recycle the material
For a material to be recycled, there must be a way to recycle it. For example, there is currently no technology to recycle Styrofoam, so it cannot be recycled.
There must be a buyer
Recycling also needs to be economically viable. There must be a market for recycled material. For example, there is currently no market for recycled Styrofoam, so it cannot be recycled.
The economics must work for the processor
The cost of recycling must be less than the cost of disposing of the material in a landfill. For example, recycling aluminum cans is economical because the cost of recycling is less than the cost of disposing of the aluminum in a landfill.
So, what makes materials recyclable? Technology, buyers, and economics.
What Materials Can Be Recycled?
Here is the list of materials that are ideally suited for recycling.
Paper recycling is one of the most common and easy types of recycling. Also, it is one of the most critical recycling the world needs today, looking at the number of trees being cut every year for its manufacturing. Paper recycling also reduces carbon emissions and landfills.
You can put paper in recycling containers in the office. Small containers can also be kept for individual desks. To know what happens further, check out the entire procedure of paper recycling here.
Aluminum tins, jars, and bottles get recycled separately. They are hammered and shredded after being separated. It is a non-magnetic metal like steel. Therefore aluminum recycling process is similar to steel.
95% less energy is used to make a can from recycled aluminum compared to manufacturing one with new aluminum. However, it is also used extensively to manufacture tractor-trailers and car bodies. Incredibly, aluminum doesn’t lose its quality with recycling, so it can be recycled indefinably. Read our article on Recycling Aluminum Cans & Aluminum Foil to know more.
Glass recycling is a complicated procedure. You can’t derive a lot of profit from it, and the companies manufacturing new products from recycled glass are very particular about their expectations. For instance, manufacturers strictly demand separate colored glass from the clear glass during glass recycling.
Although there is one benefit that glass is 100% recyclable. It doesn’t lose any of its properties or qualities after any number of glass recycling. Read our next blog on the advantages of glass recycling to know more.
Cardboard recycling is inevitable as cardboard is widely used as a packaging material in every sector. There are two types of cardboard. One is the actual corrugated cardboard which has three layers. The other one is the paper board which doesn’t have those many layers.
Cardboard with food or other stains are considered contaminated and can’t be recycled. Read more about the advantages and processes of cardboard recycling.
By their very nature, electronics are rigid shapes with lots of space inside. They are made of elements that can be crushed and compressed. Examples of e-waste recyclable materials include parts that go into a computer, television, smartphone, etc. Electronic components inside products such as cars and refrigerators also contribute to e-waste.
Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron. They include aluminum, copper, and lead. Nickel is also part of this list. These metals are used to make containers like soda cans and liquid food products such as cooking oil. Recycling non-ferrous materials can be profitable because these metals are expensive when resold.
Plastics are apparent candidates for recycling because of their ability to be reused without any loss of quality. Plastics can be molded into many different shapes for various applications. However, they must be first compressed into smaller units that take less space and energy to handle.
Others – Clothing/Textiles and Tires
Though not as common as other materials listed above, clothes and tires also come under the category of materials that can be recycled. Tires can be challenging because of their rigid nature, but the right equipment can bale them to at least half their original size. Fabric is naturally foldable, making clothing and other fabric-based items relatively easy to bale.
Once you know about the different types of recyclable products and how easily they can be baled, you can ensure that your contributions to the recycling effort are better organized.
What Materials Can’t Be Recycled?
Apart from knowing about recyclable materials, it’s also helpful to know what materials you can’t put in a recycle bin. Here is the list of generally non-recyclable items.
But it is recommended that you take this list with a grain of salt because sometimes your city’s recycling market and regulations differ from others.
So check your local recycling market and rule book before discarding any of the below-mentioned products.
- Broken ceramics, light bulbs, and mirrors
- Paper packaging around packs of drink cans
- Medical and garage waste
- Styrofoam which is also known as expanded polystyrene (EPS)
- Used paper towels, tissues, and diapers
- Paper Cups with wax or plastic coating
- Construction and demolition (C&D) debris, such as concrete and drywall
- Film plastics, such as plastic bags, shrink wrap, and bubble wrap
- Greasy paper, such as oil-soaked paper plates and pizza boxes, unless your city participates in an organic collection program
If you want to act like a responsible citizen and genuinely contribute to sustainability, forget these common recycling myths. Also, debunk them for others whenever you get a chance.
Myth 1: Containers need to be cleaned and spotless to be recycled
Fact: They must be cleaned but not squeaky clean
Myth 2: Hoses, tanks, shower curtains, swing sets, etc., are recyclable
Fact: Everything plastic is not recyclable. You must confirm with your curbside program whether these items are considered recyclable materials
Myth 3: Most Americans recycle whatever they can recycle
Fact: No, they don’t. Still, a lot of awareness is required
Myth 4: Aerosol cans can be recycled
Fact: Aerosol cans can be dangerous. Their chemical can initiate a fire in balers if they are not empty. So the rule regarding recycling empty aerosol cans without caps differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction
Myth 5: It’s ok to put the non-recyclable item in the bin as it will get sorted anyway
Fact: Recyclable materials get contaminated due to the presence of non-recyclable material. Items in such bins may go directly to the landfill, irrespective of how many recyclable materials are in the container
Compactor Management Company (former Northern California Compactors, Inc.) offers installation and support services for waste recycling equipment such as waste compactors, balers, shredders & conveyor systems. Established in 1981, it offers waste management solutions across the United States.